Baffin Island Midge Study – debunked for a 3rd time – nearby weather station shows no warming

From World Climate Report:

File:Baffin Island, Canada.svg

Baffling Island

There is a bit of press covering a just-published paper that concludes that the current climate and ecological conditions in a remote lake along the north shore of Canada’s Baffin Island are unique within the past 200,000 years—and anthropogenic global warming is the root cause. Which of course, spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

Somehow, that temperatures there were several degrees higher than present for a good third of the past 10,000 years and that there has been virtually no temperature trend in the area during past 50 years—the time usually associated with the greatest amount of human-caused “global warming”—was conveniently downplayed or ignored.

Go figure.

The research team led by the University of Colorado’s Yarrow Axford, reconstructed the environmental conditions in and around the Baffin Island lake by tracking the behavior of various environmental proxies that they recovered from a long core sample extracted from the lake bottom.

Here is what they concluded that has managed to capture the attention of the press corps (a release from University of Colorado playing up this finding no doubt helped as well):

Paleoecological and geochemical data indicate that the past three interglacial periods were characterized by similar trajectories in temperature, lake biology, and lakewater pH, all of which tracked orbitally-driven solar insolation. In recent decades, however, the study site has deviated from this recurring natural pattern and has entered an environmental regime that is unique within the past 200 millennia. [emphasis added]


Figure 1 shows the summer (June, July August) average temperature from the weather station located at Clyde, Northwest Territory, which is located on Baffin Island very near the site of the lake. There is no trend here from 1943 to 2008, the period of available data. The most remarkable events are a couple of very cold summers and one very warm summer—all in the 1970s. Summers in the most recent decade are little different than summers in the 1950s—hardly a sign that human-caused “global warming” has made environmental conditions there particularly unique.

Figure 1. Summer (JJA) average temperature from Clyde, N.W.T. from 1953-2008 (data source: NASA GISS)

Well, perhaps the temperatures during the past 50 years or so are themselves unique in the past 200 millennia?


Figure 2 is a temperature history of the lake as derived by the authors themselves. We’ve added the horizontal red line which shows the authors’ determination of current lake water temperatures, as well as the two red circles which encompass periods during the past 200,000 years in which the lake’s water temperature was higher than current. The most recent one stretched from about 6,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago. The existence of this extended warm period during the early Holocene in this region is supported by other paleo-studies (e.g. Miller et al., 2005), so this result is nothing new.

Figure 2. Summer water temperature in the Baffin Island Lake inferred by the authors based on midge (mosquito-like insects)-assemblages. We’ve added the horizontal red line to indicate modern water temperatures, and the red circles to show periods during which the water temperatures were higher than modern values (adapted from Axford et al., 2009).

Given the history of temperatures in the region, both in the recent past and in the more distant past, is it hard to figure why any of this is particularly interesting.

However, here is what should have made the findings newsworthy:

The 20th century is the only period for which all proxies show trends consistent with warming despite declining orbital forcing, which, under natural conditions, would cause climatic cooling. The timing of this shift coincides with widespread Arctic change, including warming attributed to a combination of anthropogenic forcings that are unprecedented in the Arctic system. Thus, it appears that the human footprint is beginning to overpower long-standing natural processes even at this remote site. [emphasis added]

In other words, apparently, the human warming influence on the climate has managed to overcome the natural cooling trend which is trying to take us down into the next ice age and climate conditions which simply would not support a population of 6.5 billion (and growing) homo sapiens.

So, for those concerned about the human condition (which should seem to include most of us) this should come welcome and celebrated news.

Too bad the press isn’t interested in good news.


Axford, Y., et al., 2009. recent changes in a remote Arctic lake are unique within the past 200,000 years. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, www.pnas.org_cgi_doi_10.1073_pnas.0907094106.

Miller G. H., et al., 2005. Holocene glaciation and climate evolution of Baffin Island, Arctic Canada. Quaternary Science Reviews, 24, 1703-1721.

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October 21, 2009 8:46 am

More facts destroying the AGW myth/propoganda !!!

October 21, 2009 8:52 am

This may be a scientific study, but it is not Climate science is it?
I mean, to qualify as climate science it has to be conclusion lead, the team must ignore, edit, or invent data to support the thesis and no matter how much contrary data emerges, it is all irrelevant.
Climatology is the only self-legitimising science where it appears to be compulsory for the data to be manipulated to fit the thesis.
If climatology was a ship, it would be the Titanic.

October 21, 2009 8:54 am

I forgot to ask. Has this data been “adjusted” yet to fit???

October 21, 2009 9:03 am

Just shows how bad the peer review process has become. How can papers which reach false conclusions by omitting data, as this one does, ever manage to get published?
Climate science is plumbing new depths.

October 21, 2009 9:11 am

Heh. These scare stories are going down like ducks in a fairground shooting gallery.

October 21, 2009 9:14 am

Just Curious: What did the midges have to say about the MWP in that location?
I’ve read highly imaginative stuff about the Vikings up in the Arctic Sea, and wonder if it was even remotely possible, during the warmest summers back then.
REPLY: see the other post on WUWT

October 21, 2009 9:18 am

Looks like there is a bit of an anomolous spike in 1975, other then that you might be able to juxtapose a small cooling trend from the beginning of the record to arround 1978 and a slight warming trend after that. More or less in line with global records. Interesting to know if there is anything anomolous like an El nino that happened that year.

D Caldwell
October 21, 2009 9:23 am

Just another example of how the climate “science” community (exept for an intrepid few) have already made up their minds. They already know all they need to know about climate change. Their “research” activity is now in place primarlily to support advocacy for reducing CO2 emissions.
No matter what the data may actually indicate, the mainstream researchers will always find a way to manipulate the interpretation round about to minimize the role of natural drivers and force their conclusions into consistency with current orthodoxy.
Until they get a dose of humility and back off the notion that the science is settled, it will continue to be so.

Mike Monce
October 21, 2009 9:34 am

The real problem is that sites such as WUWT are always responding after the flashy press released has found its way into the public. The damage is already done, as rebuttals such as this never see the light of day as far as the public is concerned.
You can’t win if you are always reacting to the opponent’s moves. With the press uninterested in counter-argument, it’s not surprising that AGW holds the upper hand.

October 21, 2009 9:34 am

That would now be called Clyde River, Nunavut. There has been recent warming there though … a friend of mine works close to there in the summer. They are having problems with the permafrost melting which according to the elders is unusual.

October 21, 2009 10:07 am

“They are having problems with the permafrost melting which according to the elders is unusual.”
Is that in the village or the countryside? It is quite difficult and expensive to build heated structures that are so well insulated that they don’t melt the permafrost in built-up areas. Even moderate trampling by humans is enough to affect the active layer (=the depth that melts in summer) quite strongly.

October 21, 2009 10:07 am

Does this study have anything to do with what appeared in “Quaternary Research”: “Evidence for a warmer period during the 12th and 13th centuries AD from chironomid assemblages in Southampton Island, Nunavut, Canada”
The question is because the study I’m referring to shows a clear MWP and LIA.

George E. Smith
October 21, 2009 10:17 am

So how come these Colorado scientists aren’t trout fishermen ? If they were, they would know that midges are a very common food of trout, and anyne who fly fishes for trout has midge patterns in his fly arsenal.
So the midge population in any body of water, is also going to be a proxy for the abundance of hungry trout. Now I would be happy (given a suitable grant), to go trout fishing up in Northern Canada ; along with a calibrated thermometer, to take data to establish the relationship between trout populations and climate, so that we can properly calibrate this midge thermometer.
Given that some people can’t read a mercury in glass thermometer accurately enough to resolve some of the temperature minutiae that climate is accused of varying; just how much faith are we to put in a thermometer scale that is based on some species of no-see-ums ?
Maybe the abundance of the gnats is an indication that the trout are being overfished.
And as everybody knows, if you cut all four legs off Calaveras bullfrogs, they become stone deaf, and they won’t jump no matter how loud you yell at them !

October 21, 2009 10:25 am

Do you think mere temperatures are important in the faith based movement of AGW?
CO2 is a greenhouse gas, so anything the AGW promtoers say about that is true.
As if.

October 21, 2009 10:28 am

Am I missing something or does this support the theory that humans are influencing arctic temperature trends? If natural cooling trends were counteracted by anthropoencially induced warming trends, does this not give further support for humans having an incluence on climate?

October 21, 2009 10:30 am

Thanks for pointing out the other post. I can’t keep up with all the news at this site, as hard as I try.
Ken Hall,
Rather than using the Titanic as an analogy, you might think of using Enron.

October 21, 2009 10:34 am

tty – both … this melting is widespread … from Gris Fjord south to Baffin Island hillsides slipping away etc (seen from aircraft). Where he does his excavation work the permafrost is now about 15″ below the surface … it used to be around 8″ when he first started going there about 15 years before present.

October 21, 2009 10:45 am

The 20th century is the only period for which all proxies show trends consistent with warming despite declining orbital forcing,
I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen this presented anywhere before. How long has this declining orbital forcing been happening? 20? 30? 50? 100 years? Is this something new added to the mix, or did I just miss it?

October 21, 2009 10:47 am

Baffling Baffin Beaker Boys.
So does this mean the time-share vacation rentals up there are …. freezer burn?

P Walker
October 21, 2009 11:19 am

George E Smith (10:17:14) – Good luck with your grant – just remember that DEET will melt your fly line .

October 21, 2009 11:50 am

The last time the glaciers grew on Baffin Island, they spread out to cover half of North America. Now that was climate change!!!

October 21, 2009 12:01 pm

some I know think that the next glaciation period has been put off by man’s impact on the environment by the invention of agriculture over the last few thousand years. Seems that the big thing here is that all that midge activity in recent years suggesting a warming trend at the lake has been debunked by the fact there is an instrument record indicating no increase in temperature for most of the previous hundred years.

October 21, 2009 12:32 pm

This is the same sort of pattern I’m seeing in the GHCN data pre-GIStemp. You find no increasing temperatures in the area of the midges. Same thing at other specific places.
Individual locations show remarkable stability. Only the aggregate shows a temperature rise, and that only when a large number of thermometers are “pruned” toward the end of the series. But even then, when you look at individual areas, they show little or no warming.
The “warming” showed by GIStemp is NOT in the GHCN data, neither for a long lived set of thermometers, nor in sets for given areas (i.e. the UK example in the “long temperature series” link below).
IMHO, a very good project would be to make a collection of such examples, statistically valid for the globe, then ask: “How can the world be warming when the UK, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, India, Japan, Canada, Mexico, The Iberian Peninsula, and maybe even a stable set of USA thermometers are not? I’ve done the UK data. It shows 0.3C rise per CENTURY. I think I’ll take a day or two and make similar data sets for the other regions listed. Looks to me like the “highest and best use” for me right now…

John F. Hultquist
October 21, 2009 1:10 pm

jon and tty – permafrost, elders, structures, heat, insulation, etc.
I’ve seen similar comments other places about what the folks on the ground claim has been happening. Are these places coastal so that the odd warm current might have a strong influence. I’m thinking of the issue with the currents and winds that flushed out the ice on the Arctic Ocean. I’m just curious about this seemingly discrepancy and have no expertise. Would like to know more.

Hey Skipper
October 21, 2009 1:16 pm

Individual locations show remarkable stability.
Funny you should mention that. I was at Denali a couple months ago, and (thanks to noted an AWOS a couple hundred yards from a visitor’s area near the center of the park; the citing appeared good to my unpracticed eye.
Thinking Denali might have good, continuous temperature records — and where UHI would obviously not be a factor, I did a little googling.
And came up with this. (Page 3, center column, halfway down)
So, although the decades since 1977 have averaged two degrees F warmer than the previous three decades, those decades were in turn two degrees F colder than 1923-1945 (Figure 4). Therefore, the net change in annual temperatures since 1920 is less than 0.5 degree F. These results highlight the importance of defining the period of record when analyzing long-term trends. If a 30-year record were analyzed it would show significant warming in the region, but with 80 years of data the large decadal variability of the climate becomes more apparent.
BTW, this is for central Alaska, not just Denali (see page one).

Britannic no-see-um
October 21, 2009 2:57 pm

Forget fractions of degrees and global averages and think real world diurnal and seasonal range. In reality, the sort of average annual temperature variation we are looking at is trivial in everyday range terms. We are crazed with this average global temperature myopia. There is only one killer temperature for the vast majority of cold blooded species, unless adapted for overwintering by secreted glycerol and suchlike in dormant cocoon mode, and that is 0degC. Talk to any experienced micropalaeontologist unsucked by this AGW hornswoggle and the whole geo column is always feast or famine in numerical abundance. Lets face it, everything has evolved through huge extremes of temperature and tolerates it every 24 hours, but food supply and predators dictate survival, bottom ph reduction/oxidation dictates preservation.

David Segesta
October 21, 2009 6:37 pm

Anthony your graph above shows summer temperature for Clyde and it exhibits a very slight warming trend over the period 1945 to present. But the annual temperature graph provided by GISS
shows a definite downward trend. I replotted the graph myself using their annual data and added a linear regression line. That line has a downward trend of nearly 1 degree C over the same period. So now my question is; are the Midges sensitive to summer temp only or do they respond to annual temps?
If they respond to annual temps then what is the point of plotting the summer temps?
If they respond to summer temp only then they are not a good indicator of annual temps since obviously the annual temp went down while the summer temp went up.

October 22, 2009 4:35 am

John F. Hultquist – I don’t know John … this is second hand info from a friend who works in construction. It would interesting to see what is (or was) causing it. It would also be interesting to see the other statistics associated with the Average Temp in the graph above (s.d. etc). Also, what are the monthly statistics for this weather station?
p.s. It feels like it going to be a long cold winter!

Richard M
October 22, 2009 5:17 am

“The 20th century is the only period for which all proxies show trends consistent with warming despite declining orbital forcing, which, under natural conditions, would cause climatic cooling.”
This is essentially what I pointed out back when Frank Lansner did his spaghetti proxy article. It demonstrated a long term cooling trend. If the Earth is in a long term cooling mode then AGW, far from being evil, may be exactly what is needed to delay the cooling process. There can be no positive feedbacks since we’re simply keeping the temperature relatively constant.
Too bad they stopped with “consistent with warming”, otherwise they could have made the significant statement about AGW balancing a cooling world and made the obvious connection I did above. Instead of looking like useful idiots, they could have tread new ground.
They would also have provided the perfect excuse for climate scientists. They could claim they got the science right but missed the natural cooling trend it was working within. But, then they would have to tell the politicians … never mind.

Mike Bryant
October 22, 2009 5:24 am

I guess everyone here knows that the term “midge” is not politically correct and should henceforward be replaced with the UN approved phrase “little flying insects”.

October 22, 2009 9:25 am

Sorry for the repeat post . I didn’t get a response, and I’m very curious about this:
The 20th century is the only period for which all proxies show trends consistent with warming despite declining orbital forcing,
I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen this presented anywhere before. How long has this declining orbital forcing been happening? 20? 30? 50? 100 years? Is this something new added to the mix, or did I just miss it?

October 23, 2009 4:22 am

jmbnf (09:18:18) :
Looks like there is a bit of an anomolous spike in 1975, other then that you might be able to juxtapose a small cooling trend from the beginning of the record to arround 1978 and a slight warming trend after that. More or less in line with global records.
I also disagree with the seemingly simplistic “flat-lined” temperature trend shown in the upper graphs: Temp’s fells from the mid-1940’s into the world-wide low point in the mid-1970’s, then rose again in their usual 70 year mini-cycle between 1975 and 2000, and are now dropping off again. Just like they have every time un-GISS-adjusted data is displayed.
But this leaves the more fundamental question:
Hypothesis: These “researchers” have concluded vehemently that man-released CO2 caused global warming that affected temperatures around Baffin Island that caused midge populations in one Baffin Island lake to plummet over the last half of the 20th century.
Actual Observation: Temperatures around Baffin Island averaged 3.5 degrees for twenty five years until dropping off in the early 1960’s by 1.0 degree; then leveled off and stayed at 2.5 degrees for about twenty five years, then went back up in the 1980 and 1990’s to return to 3.5 degrees.
To support their propaganda (er, conclusion) in this press release they need to show an INCREASING midge population as temperatures decreased, and a steady but LARGER population through the 1960’s, 1970’s, and mid 1980’s, and a substantial DROP in midge population since 1990. Instead their data show that overall populations declined since the early 1950’s.
And this observation is even more inconsistent with their theory that midge population in this lake was affected by temperatures.
Further, these “scientists” – must show
(1) that a 1 degree decrease in temperature (as in 1960-1970) will actually increase midge populations.
(2) they must show that a constant 2.5 degree average temperature over 20 years results in a CONSTANT and LARGE midge populations from 1960 through 1990 (compared to their baselinepopulation);
(3) They must show that a 1 degree rise in temperature will actually reduce midge population.
(4) Certain years in their sample fluctuate significantly from the actual average temperature for the region. Midges are short-lived creatures, surviving the winter only through eggs laid before the ground and lake surface re-freezes each fall. IF their midge-population-to-temperature theory is correct, the “scientists” MUST show year-to-year population changes exactly matching these spikes and drops in temperatures.
(5) If a 4 .0 degree up and down spike in recorded temperatures between 1972 and 1978 did NOT change midge populations in those same years, then a 1/2 degree rise in temperatures over a century’s time did NOT cause midge populations to fall over the latter half of the 20th century.
(6) There are slightly different trends between summer and winter temperatures. To support their theory that any temperature (whether average/summer/winter) affects midge population, the scientists must show which temperature change is controlling the population: colder winters, hotter summers, colder average, hotter average, etc.

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